A Dog for All Seasons: A Memoirby Patti Sherlock
Patti Sherlock's working relationship with her Border Collie, Duncan, got her through the ups and downs of sixteen years on a sheep farm in Idaho. During that time, Duncan was an unwavering companion through the destruction of Patti's marriage, her children inevitably leaving home one by one, and eventually, her decision to stop raising sheep. Patti's life on the… See more details below
Patti Sherlock's working relationship with her Border Collie, Duncan, got her through the ups and downs of sixteen years on a sheep farm in Idaho. During that time, Duncan was an unwavering companion through the destruction of Patti's marriage, her children inevitably leaving home one by one, and eventually, her decision to stop raising sheep. Patti's life on the farm is a reflection of beginnings and endings, and the cycle of seasons in all of our lives.
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-Temple Grandin, New York Times bestselling author of ANIMALS IN TRANSLATION and ANIMALS MAKE US HUMAN
"If you've forgotten how to see miracles in everyday moments, this book will remind you. It's a story about the real world, the world where human beings live in constant contact with nature, and where animals are more than best friends."
W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O'Neal Gear, New York Times bestselling authors of PEOPLE OF THE THUNDER
"Beautifully written, it is a memoir sure to rivet the attention of those who have had the blessing of a dog woven into the fabric of a human's life."
Mordecai Siegal, bestselling author of I JUST GOT A PUPPY, WHAT DO I DO?
“Patti Sherlock brings you to the peaceable barnyard kingdom she shares with her family and Duncan, a high-energy, weather-forecasting, sheep-herding Border collie. When the going gets tough and her marriage falls apart, it is the indiscriminately kind Duncan who helps Sherlock get beyond the past and find her way to green pastures.”
Marsha Boulton, author of WALLY’S WORLD
"A DOG FOR ALL SEASONS gives us the convergence of a remarkable woman, a wonderful dog, and a fascinating way of life. It's the literary equivalent of fresh air, pure water, and sparkling sunlight. The book should be savored."
Tim Sandlin, author of JIMI HENDRIX TURNS EIGHTY and ROWDY IN PARIS
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Duncan was so eager to work, it was hard to postpone trying him on useful chores, yet I didn’t want to ask too much of him when he was only six months old. But one day when I was carrying an armload of hay, the sheep stampeded me and nearly knocked me over. When I got to the mangers, I dumped the hay and watched it splash like rain onto their wool.
Maybe I could try Charlie Kimball’s suggestion about getting Duncan to keep the flock back. If it proved too much for him or if he created terrible chaos, I would delay a second try for a few more months.
Feeling silly, at the next feeding I sat down on the haystack with him, put my arm around him, and did what Kimball had suggested. “I have a problem, Dunc, and I hope you can help me with it.”
He tilted his ears forward. “It would be better for me and better for the wool if the sheep didn't swarm me."
His face went solemn.
“Do you think you could shoo them off until I’ve finished putting out hay?”
His mouth fell open in a smile.
“Okay, let’s go try.”
Duncan could go into the sheep pens only with permission. “Come on,” I said, and Duncan flew over the fence. He looked at me. What next?
“Shoo ‘em,” I said.
Maybe it wasn’t the talk I’d had with him. Maybe I conveyed what I wanted psychically, or maybe I told him with body language. Whatever the reason, Duncan, young dog that he was, dashed into the midst of the sheep. Older, big ewes didn’t want to give way to a pup, but he ran at them individually, forcing them to back up.
I wanted to quit there on a successful note, but decided to push on. “Keep them back, Duncan,” I said. Incredibly, he did. Scarcely believing how easy it was, I filled feeders with hay while Duncan ran back and forth, forcing the complaining, blatting sheep to stand back. From that day, Duncan went into the pens with me whenever I fed.
The sheep still managed to toss hay around when they were eating and some of it went into their wool, but feeding had become pleasant. Instead of being mobbed, I calmly deposited portions of hay while Duncan kept ewes behind an imaginary line. I felt sorry for him; it required so much running and concentration to make sure no ewe busted through. But I learned how much he enjoyed his new job when I was talking to a friend on the phone.
“I’ve taught Duncan to ‘shoo’ the sheep,” I said.
Duncan dashed to the back door, ears perked, hopeful look on his face. He moaned to be let out.
We learned the command “Shoo,” could not be used in conversation at risk of disappointing Duncan. If we said “Shoo,” and didn’t intend to do it right away, Duncan became crestfallen; his ears fell and his body slumped. If we were working sheep in the barn and I said, “Should I call Duncan in to shoo the sheep?” he would suddenly materialize and sail over the fence into the midst of them. The word took on a reverence, said twice a day as a command, the rest of the time spelled out, S-H-O-O.
Amazingly, Duncan could distinguish homonyms. He never once thought he was about to go to work when someone said, “I can’t find my other shoe.”
Excerpted from A Dog For All Seasons by Patti SherlockCopyright 2010 by Patti Sherlock
Published in March 2010 by Thomas Dunne/St. Martin’s Press.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.
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